British Navy Crews Head for World Pilot Gig Championships

British Navy Gig Crews Head for World Pilot Gig Championships

Crews from Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) and HMS Raleigh will be heading to the Isles of Scilly for the May Bank Holiday weekend to take part in this year’s World Pilot Gig Championships (Friday 3 to Monday 6 May).

The BRNC crew will be making their debut at the competition having been formed last year to take part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames.

Since then the Dartmouth crew have taken part in a number of local races in their Cornish gig named Leander, donated by the Britannia Association.

The crew will go to the World Championships off the back of a win in the recent Head of the Dart race. They completed the 15 kilometre race, which started in Totnes and finished in Dartmouth, in just over an hour, holding off stiff competition to take the first prize.

BRNC Gig team Captain Commander Geoff Wintle said:

 “The team is raring to go. We have trained hard for this event and we are all fitter than we were four months ago. Most of us never imagined that 10 months on from the Diamond Jubilee Pageant, we would have competed in several races and would be taking part in the World Championships.

“Our recent outing in the Head of the Dart race has given us bags of confidence and we are looking for a good group result over the bank holiday weekend. We are also extremely grateful to our sponsors, The Britannia Association and BRNC’s Central Welfare Fund.”

HMS Raleigh’s crew are seasoned competitors and have a team entered in the ladies, men’s and men’s veterans categories of the competition.

The crews are made up of a mix of serving and former Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel, together with civilian staff, who work at the Royal Navy training base in Torpoint. All three crews will be racing in the Cornish gig Jupiter.

They have been training hard for the competition on the River Lynher, taking to the water from HMS Raleigh’s Sea Sense training centre, where many of the crew work.

HMS Raleigh Gig team member Chief Petty Officer ‘Topsey’ Turney said:

 “The men’s team will be taking part in the championships for the eighth year. The ladies made their debut in 2009 and the veterans have competed on a number of previous occasions. Training has been going really well.

“Our resident Seal, who we’ve named Sammy, has been giving us coaching tips and wished us well for the Scillies. We are aiming to go out and give it everything we have to enjoy the experience and give a good account of ourselves against the other Service teams who are entered.”

Jupiter and Leander are standard Cornish gigs, measuring approximately 32 feet, with six oarsmen and a coxswain, who sits at the stern and guides the gig through the water. This will be the 24th World Pilot Gig Championships.

Nearly 140 crews are scheduled to take part, competing for a variety of trophies. The races are run in open water off St Mary’s Quay over about 1.6 miles. They are effectively straight line sprints which take in order of 20 minutes or so to complete, depending on the swell.

Cornish pilot gigs were originally used as general work boats and craft to take pilots out to incoming vessels from the Atlantic, who helped guide them into port. Gigs raced each other to be the first to get their pilot to the vessel, to be selected for the job and hence receive the payment.

Naval Today Staff, April 30, 2013; Image: Royal Navy